How Approachable Are You?

Building Relationships With Your Team

How Approachable Are You? - Building Relationships With Your Team

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Do you ever get the impression that people are avoiding you?

Being approachable is key to building relationships with your colleagues, and to creating a strong team in which trust, confidence and ideas can flow.

When you're approachable, team members do not sit on or cover up problems – they're able to bring issues to you before they become full-blown crises because they know that you won't react badly.

Team members who have approachable managers feel able to contribute ideas in a safe working environment. They're not scared about being knocked back. They know their manager is open to their suggestions and will consider them fairly.

Certain organizations have reputations, correct or otherwise, for keeping their leaders in "ivory towers," far away from their team members. In these high "power-distance" situations, you might have to call your boss "madam" or "sir" rather than by their first name, and go through a PA if you want to talk to them. They might have their own reserved car-parking spot, chair meetings from the end of the table, and so on. It can be scary to approach this kind of person!

Often, leaders who act this way do so as a way of maintaining their authority. However, they will be missing out on opportunities to identify issues or discover ideas for improvement by not being "on the front line." You'll be much more approachable if you reduce power distance.

How approachable you appear to others is very much down to you. Sure, some of the people who work for you may have a fear of authority, but you need to break down any barriers there may be and foster an environment of trust.

Approachability is about being accessible, consciously breaking down perceived barriers, having appropriate body language, and using the right verbal communication and listening skills. Take our quiz to find out just how approachable you are, and discover strategies for becoming more approachable in areas that are holding you back. And don't miss our "How Approachable Are You?" infographic, found at the end of the quiz.

Are You Approachable at Work?


For each statement, click the button in the column that best describes you. Please answer them as you actually are (rather than how you think you should be), and don't worry if some seem to score in the "wrong direction." When you're finished, click the "Calculate My Total" button at the bottom.

Your last quiz results are shown.

You last completed this quiz on , at .

16 Statements to Answer

Never Rarely Sometimes Often Always
1 The negative feedback I give outweighs my positive feedback.
2 I step away from my desk and walk around to speak to my colleagues.
3 I smile at people, whatever their level in the organization.
4 When my colleague pitches an idea, I do not provide feedback.
5 I make time available to speak with team members.
6 I let my colleagues know where I will be if I am away from my desk.
7 I let strongly negative emotions show when I receive bad news.
8 If I am talking to a team member and another call or message comes in, I halt the conversation and switch my attention.
9 I empathize with my colleagues' situations and opinions.
10 I do not make eye contact when talking to people.
11 I talk to each team member the same, whether they are thick skinned or sensitive.
12 I talk with my arms folded.
13 I do not complain.
14 I give team members my cellphone number.
15 I talk about my life outside work with my colleagues.
16 I provide a platform for ideas.
Total = 0

Score Interpretation

Score Comment

You need to work on your approachability. Your attitude and demeanor are cutting off the flow of information that you receive from your team members. This might mean that problems are swept under the carpet, or great ideas aren't being allowed to flourish. You may have to make some fundamental changes to how you manage, but don't worry, there are plenty of simple ways to get started and boost your approachability. (Read below to start.)


You are in a great position to improve. You can be approachable, so problems may come to you before they get serious. However, your team members may also be put off telling you when something's up, because they're worried about your reaction. Take a closer look at your results and focus most on where your score is low. You may find that a simple change to the way that you manage will make a huge difference. (Read below to start.)


Well done! You are approachable, which means that your team members feel relatively little fear in coming to you when they have a problem or an idea. This is because your reaction to bad news is measured and calm, and you treat ideas with relish and positivity. As a result, crises develop far less often than they would do under a more unapproachable manager, and your organization benefits from the ideas culture that your welcoming attitude has fostered. However, there is always room for improvement! (Read below to start.)


This assessment has not been validated and is intended for illustrative purposes only.

Our quiz is based on four attributes that make up approachability: looking available, using the right body language, and having good verbal communication and listening skills. We look at each attribute in more detail below. By improving in these areas, you'll become more approachable and find that your team is more productive and creative as a result.

Show You're Available

(Questions 2, 6, 14)

Your score is 0 out of 0  

It seems obvious, but looking available is one of the most effective steps you can take toward breaking down physical barriers, reducing power distance, and keeping lines of communication open. Not much says "leave me alone" more than keeping your office door closed, not talking to team members because they're less senior than you, or expecting people to address you differently from everyone else!

Even in an open-plan office, you can improve your visibility further by getting up from your desk and walking around. Your desk is your turf, and this can make it hard for team members to approach. So, head to the "shop floor" – go and speak with people at their desks, where they feel comfortable, or talk to them somewhere neutral, like at the water cooler. Use this informal time to recognize good work, gain feedback, and stay in the loop. You'll be amazed how much people like to share their thoughts when they're asked!

Hewlett Packard® founders William Hewlett and David Packard famously used this approach in their company. Since then, the term MBWA – Management by Wandering Around – has become popular. But it takes more than simply strolling through your office or around your site. You must make a determined and genuine effort to talk to and understand your team members, to find out what they do, to check that they have what they need, to make sure that they're happy, and to take action where necessary to correct things that are going wrong.

And don't just talk about work: indulge in a little personal disclosure. Sharing information about yourself is important when you're in a leadership role because it shows others that you're empathetic, compassionate and authentic. Speak about your family, what you did at the weekend, and your hobbies. Build rapport with others by finding out about their lives outside work, too. When you share information and take the time to chat, you'll probably find that you end up liking the people you work with more. This means that working alongside them will not only be productive, but fun, too!

If you're in and out of meetings a lot, let your team know where you'll be and when you'll be back. If you're working flexible hours, update your calendar regularly so that it's clear when and how people can get hold of you.


This quiz is about being approachable, not constantly available. It's important that you set clearly defined boundaries, which will protect your own well-being as well as avoiding creating manager dependency. Empower your people through delegation, trust and clear communication.

Perhaps you're purposefully avoiding team members because, deep down, you're feeling threatened by their ability or success. If this sounds familiar, see our article Avoiding Managerial Self-Sabotage for ways to overcome these feelings and improve your approachability.

Listening Skills

(Questions 5, 7, 8, 9, 16)

Your score is 0 out of 0  

Put simply, if your team members think you are not listening to them, they won't want to approach you.

Good listening is not about hearing what someone is saying and waiting for them to finish so you can have your "two cents." You have to engage your eyes as well as your ears, give the other person your full attention, and draw on your emotional intelligence. This type of Mindful Listening builds trust and respect, both of which are important for increasing approachability.

Engage in Active Listening. This is the process by which you pay attention to the words that someone is saying, and understand the complete message they are sending. Listening in this way is important because it shows you are paying attention, so your colleagues feel engaged and valued.

Another approach is Empathic Listening. This can help you to win your team members' trust and get to the root of any issues they may have. Do this by identifying key points and repeating them back to the speaker to get them to open up. What's important is to pay attention to what's not being said, as well as what is – the absence of words can often be telling.

Verbal Communication for Approachability

(Questions 1, 4, 7, 11, 13, 15)

Your score is 0 out of 0  

There is a huge crossover between appearing approachable and being positive, and this is especially important when we consider verbal communication. What we say is a crucial part of approachability, because it has the power to build trust and create a strong team spirit.

Few people will want to engage with you if everything you say is negative. Although it will always depend on the circumstances, team members will have more confidence in approaching you with ideas or problems if they are not fearful of the outcome. With this in mind, make sure that you acknowledge ideas from your team and give credit where it's due.

You don't have to go over the top. Try to give slightly more positive feedback than negative (because people take negative feedback much more to heart than positive feedback). A simple "thanks for the suggestion" will encourage people to open up.

If an idea is great, make sure that you give your team member the recognition they deserve. Research shows that receiving praise raises our dopamine levels – the neurotransmitter associated with feelings of joy and satisfaction – which can, over time, help us to establish good working habits. [1] If an idea is not so good, explain why. Failure to do so may leave your team member feeling like their input is not wanted, and this can stifle future creativity.

Responding positively to good ideas is the easy part. It's how you react to bad news that's the real test. Self-regulation, which is an important part of emotional intelligence, isn't always easy but problems can fester if team members are too scared to come to you with their issues. Appreciate that it takes courage to speak up when something is wrong, so always thank the person for letting you know.

Approachable Body Language

(Questions 3, 8, 10, 12)

Your score is 0 out of 0  

Your team members could be sitting on ideas that could transform your organization, but previous experiences (when you've seemed disinterested or irritated) may have put them off telling you about them. And you could be none the wiser!

We know that positive managers tend to have happy teams, and they are naturally far more approachable than those with a negative outlook. Positivity shines through all communication, including our posture, eye contact, hand gestures, speech, and tone of voice. And how we hold ourselves determines the way people act toward us.

Using the right body language is a vital yet simple way of increasing your approachability. Smile more, unfold your arms, look your team members in the eye when you talk to them, and speak slowly in a moderate to low tone. Take your time when you're walking to and from your desk – even if you're in a hurry – and remember to look around rather than straight ahead or down at the floor.

Key Points

Being approachable is the foundation of building good relationships with your colleagues, and of creating a strong team in which confidence can grow and ideas can flow. You can improve how approachable you are by breaking down barriers and creating an environment of trust.

Develop your skills by increasing your visibility, using appropriate body language, and working on your communication and listening skills.


Click on the image below to see this article represented in an infographic:

How Approachable Are You Infographic

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Comments (67)
  • Over a month ago Sarah_H wrote
    Hi Paul,

    Yes you are quite right, this article points to a number of key areas to consider regarding how approachable you are. We have many other articles which look at each of these things in more detail. Do let us know if we can point you towards anything specifically.

    Mind Tools Team
  • Over a month ago Paul1607 wrote
    A good grounding article that doesn't quite follow through because it sets the framework for the reader to set their own level of approachability but doesn't go down that path.
  • Over a month ago Michele wrote
    Hi zbcali,

    Great to hear that the information and tips are helpful. Thanks for the feedback.

    Mind Tools Team
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